What’s really difficult for me is figuring out how to ask questions of words.
My husband just does it and I blink at him. It is so completely foreign to
me as an English speaker.
Here’s what I mean. The way he was taught in school to figure out what form a
noun is in is to ask questions of the noun. The word will answer the
appropriate question for the form it is in.
So, let’s take kaķis , a cat. The dative of kaķis is kaķim , which
roughly corresponds to: to/for a cat.
Let’s say you’ve never encountered this word before. (As a beginner, this
happens a lot.) How do you figure out which form it is in?
As an English speaker, I look at the ending, it is -im , then look at /
remember the chart of endings for nouns, hmm, -im can only be 1st person
My husband, on the other hand, when attempting to explain to me how to ask
questions of words, would look at the noun and say, “Kas? Kaķis. Kā? Kaķa.
Kam? Kaķim. “ He is looking for the question that makes sense when kaķim
is the answer. The question: To/For which/what/whom? makes sense when
answered with to/for a cat. The other two questions mean “What? Who?” and
“Of whose?” …and you can see those don’t make sense to be answered that way.
Each of the six major forms of nouns has an associated question word.
Vocative, the seventh form, does not have an associated question word.
Why is this so important to understand? It is necessary because all sentence
analysis is based on using this method of asking questions, which can get
quite complicated. It is also important because the question words themselves
are an integral part of the language - asking a question helps you figure
out what’s going on in the sentence.
How does this work? Let’s take a look.
For these next few examples, pele (mouse) is in the nominative form. It is
the subject of our imaginary sentence. Watch how questions and endings give
context and meaning, even without more specifics. For each form of kaķis,
we’ll ask the associated question to see what’s going on between the cat
Kaķa pele —- Kā pele? Kaķa. — Whose mouse? The cat’s.
Kaķim pele —- Kam pele? Kaķim. — Who is the mouse for? The cat.
Kaķī pele —- Kur pele? Kaķī. — Where is the mouse? Inside the cat.
Because every noun has more associated information due to its ending than just
its definition, we can learn that by asking questions about it to see how it
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kaķis : cat
pele : mouse